Peter Jones [+]
Jazz singer and journalist
When Mark Murphy died in October 2015, the world lost one of the greatest jazz singers in history. Murphy was the last of his kind, a hipster of the Kerouac generation, who rejected the straight life of prosperity and numb consumerism. With a catalogue of more than 40 albums under his own name, Mark Murphy was a consummate improviser, who never sang a song the same way twice. He could have enjoyed a successful mainstream career in the vein of Mel Tormé or Jack Jones. But his ambition was greater – to be an artist, to rebel against the commercial music industry and to carry the jazz vocal flame wherever it led him. Murphy was a master of scat and vocalese, of songwriting and the spoken word. He expanded the jazz singing repertoire, adding his own lyrics to instrumentals like John Coltrane’s Naima , Freddie Hubbard’s Red Clay , and Oliver Nelson’s Stolen Moments . Unrivalled as an interpreter of ballads, he was able to express longing and regret to a degree lacking in any other jazz singer. For years he roamed the world, playing thousands of gigs. Rediscovered in the Eighties by a new audience of jazz dancers, and again in the 21st century by a digital generation who invited him to guest on their recordings, he remains a crucial though unjustly neglected figure in vocal jazz. This Is Hip is more than a biography: it also explores Murphy’s innovative approaches both to singing and to the teaching of singers. Based on numerous interviews with those who knew him best, the book delves into a performing and recording career that spanned 60 years and earned him five Grammy nominations.